Round peg meet square hole – “Dollbaby” by Laura Lane McNeal

June 8, 2015 at 4:24 pm Leave a comment

UnknownLet me begin this review by saying please publishers, for the love of all things holy, stop comparing every book where there are African-American servants to “The Help.”  That was not the first book written about the topic and we are not all looking for the next great book that is like “The Help.”  It was a fine book but it did not redefine the literary world or create a ground-breaking forum for racial discussion. Okay, now onto this book (which has been compared to “The Help”).

After her father dies in a bike accident, Ibby (Liberty) Bell finds herself dropped off by her unstable mother at her grandmother’s house in New Orleans.  Ibby has never met her grandmother before and finds her awkward teen self living in an old house with weird decor and African-American servants who teach her about life and her family’s history. Yep, that about sums it up.

This novel is McNeal’s first and it is just crammed with a bunch of stories, deaths (way too many to be believable), mental illness (also, a lot of this interlaced with the death thing) and poorly crafted descriptions.   Nothing seems to fit right.  The author tries to make the story relevant by setting it during the Civil Rights movement and having Doll, one of the African-American servants, protest at a Woolworth’s counter. But that part of the story line never goes anywhere so I am not sure why it was even necessary.   The characters did not resonate with me either, and I found myself wishing I cared more about someone, anyone, so I could connect better with the story.

McNeal also has a narrator problem. While it would seem we are crafting a story told by a third person omniscient narrator, the omniscient part of the narrator comes and goes.  So at times, there is a whole back story that is thrown in  while at other times, well, who knows what anyone is thinking or why they are doing what they are doing – and what is behind door number 2 on the second floor.  It is just awkward and confusing.

Perhaps equally bizarre is the author’s note that this is a tribute to New Orleans, when in fact there really were not a whole lot of descriptions of New Orleans as a city and most of the story takes place in Ibby’s grandmother’s old, rickety Victorian home.  I really don’t know what to make of it.

This book is like a patchwork quilt without any kind of plan – and the result is just uncomfortable and sad, because you know it took a lot of work.  But even knowing all the work that went into it, you still want a quilt to look pretty and a book to tell a well-crafted story.

Oh well, onward.  Have you heard about a book called “The Help”…

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Entry filed under: May 2015 reads. Tags: , , , .

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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.

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